Jeff Rodgers camp comes to an end
The Jeff Rodgers Basketball Camp, one of the biggest and most successful summer basketball camps in The Bahamas, wraps up its 32nd year today, and Jeff Rodgers, the founder, had a few hands on deck. The camp was held at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, and got underway on June 24.
Rodgers said that this was one of the biggest and best camps that he has staged so far.
“The camp was great. The instructors did a great job in working with the kids,” he said. “They talked to the kids about a number of different things such as life and other important things that they need to know. It has truly been a great year.”
As is the norm, there were a few professional basketball players at the camp this year. They included Bahamian Zane Knowles who plays in the French professional basketball league tier two; Tyler Johnson of the Phoenix Suns; James Johnson of the Miami Heat; and Shelvin Mack of the Charlotte Hornets. Former Charlotte Hornets’ player Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues was in attendance again.
“It’s great to have these guys around. They understand the needs of our young people. Young people have to be in a positive environment. They need to hear and do positive things. With them coming into the camp I had the privilege of talking with them and telling them about the camp. They heard about the camp and to have them here to talk about their life skills and teaching the kids the fundamentals of the game of basketball is what it’s all about. Not only just that but to talk about life and the challenges that young people face is something that is welcomed. To have these guys come in and talk about their life experiences and what they go through on and off the court – it’s a great experience for the kids,” Rodgers said.
Zane Knowles, who plays with The Bahamas’ Senior Men’s National Basketball Team, said that it is important that Bahamian players give back.
“It is real important. With me and other guys around we show that to always have hope. That one of their own can go far as long as they stay focused and not letting anyone tell them they cannot do something is what it’s all about,” said Knowles. “We have DeAndre Ayton and ‘Buddy’ Hield who can also give them hope. We cannot forget where we come from. This is where I came from and started – I’ll never disrespect my country. As long as I have time to be here, I’ll be here.”
Tyler Johnson, a first-time instructor at the camp, said he really loved and enjoyed it this year. He said he wish that he had spent more time in The Bahamas when he was with the Miami Heat. The Suns’ guard now plays with Ayton, who himself is a former camper. He had nothing but praise about his 7’ 1” teammate.
“I got a small sample – I played 30 games with him (Ayton) last season. He is a really talented player. He has the chance to be the best player to come out of that class. He has a tremendous amount of upside. I was actually very impressed with how skilled he was,” said Johnson.
James Johnson said he met Rodgers while on family vacation and was invited to the camp, and the rest is history. This is also his first year at the camp.
“It’s a great experience. I have only been here for 30 minutes and I can see how happy these kids are. There is ‘Muggsy’, Tyler, the Thompsons. These kids are really blessed,” James Johnson said.
One of the highlights of the camp is the interaction with Golden State Warriors’ guard Klay Thompson, but this year Thompson did not make the trip because he is in Los Angeles, California, rehabbing a hamstring injury he suffered during the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals against the Toronto Raptors last month. His father, Bahamian Mychal “Sweet Bells” Thompson, and brother Mychel Thompson, made the trip as usual.
The father, a Bahamian legend, keeps coming back because he said it is home for him, and he loves the interaction with the campers. He said that Klay wanted to be at the camp this year, but unfortunately couldn’t come.
“Klay is obviously disappointed that he is not here. He had to stay in Los Angeles and rehab, and he couldn’t fly this summer and come down here. He considers The Bahamas his second home. This place and camp are very special to him. He has been coming here since he was a baby – I brought him here holding him in my arms. He loves sending merchandise, shirts and equipment down here for the kids to enjoy. He wants to be a part of it for a very long time,” Mychal Thompson said.
Klay Thompson sent some of his Anta brand merchandise that was distributed to the campers. He said that basketball has done a lot for him and other Bahamians who played in the NBA or took part in college basketball. He said that is why it is imperative to come back and give back.
Rodgers said the camp is his ministry and that it is has touched the lives of thousands of young Bahamians.
“It is a part of my life and a part of my ministry. This camp was founded in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. I am just happy that God just looked at me as the one that he wants to do this camp. It is a joy and a blessing for me. I look back and to know the amount of young people who came through the camp – 11,000, it’s just a great experience to give something back consistently to the community for the past 32 years.”
The camp’s family fun night was last night at the Kendal Isaacs gym. The NBA players and visitors played against the instructors and other local players.
Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism
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